Well, consider this a response to all those people.
Now, for starters, it’s true that I am biased. I mean, I am a grad student learning to become a psychotherapist after all. Just keeping it honest.
So, here’s the thing: Talk therapy works. And it works well.
I’ve heard a lot of folks say that they’ve gone to therapy and it was a bunch of baloney and to that I say: Could be.
See, not all therapists are good, competent, caring, well-trained, and so on. But neither are a bunch of other people who charge money for their services. Painting any profession with a broad brush, in general, just isn’t fair or smart.
I love how people say things like “She just asked me how I felt all the time… when I just wanted to fix the problem.”
That to me speaks volumes of the kind of misconceptions people have about therapy. Therapy can help you but it doesn’t do it alone. Generally speaking, the person being counseled has to do the heavy lifting. Surprise!
The job of the therapist is to guide you not just toward self-understanding, but also through the process of learning different ways of thinking about your problems and their solutions. Therapy isn’t about magical one time sessions. It is, however, about gaining insight, but it’s also much more than that.
In fact, talk therapy has been shown to be nearly as effective as drug therapy. I say nearly because for certain conditions, like schizophrenia for example, drugs are perhaps the only means of managing the condition.
But when you’re talking about anxiety, depression, obsession, phobias and the like, then therapy is effective. Studies have shown that psychotherapy even has the ability to alter the brain in the same way that drugs do (Friedman, 2002).
It’s thought that this happens because as a person goes through therapy, the things they learn produce new proteins that help to remodel neurons in the brain. Learning can literally re-wire your brain in this regard.
The things you learn can also be used over and over; they can be adapted, expanded, and combined with drug therapy to enhance the effects of both.
Let’s be clear though, does talk therapy help everyone? You bet it doesn’t, but neither does drug therapy or other modalities.
Gasp! What’s that… there are no guarantees? A big negative to that as well.
The bottom-line is that calling all therapists quacks is not only wrong-headed, it just might limit your options for bettering your situation. I’m also not sure why anyone would take something as potentially helpful as therapy off the table.
The fact is, psychology is studied and practiced at some of the most prestigious universities in the world, testimony from mental health professionals is permissible in a court of law, and to get more to the heart of the matter, thousands upon thousands have been helped by talk therapy in measurable ways.
How measurable? So measurable that the results can be seen on a brain scan; now how’s that for evidence?
Maybe people that take a negative view of therapy do so because they’ve fully prescribed to our microwave-culture: everything done in seconds and without thinking. The problem with that though is that when you have a thinking problem you have to learn to think your way out of it. And, at times, this requires assistance. In my humble opinion.
In the end, if drugs alone did it for you, – sweet! But don’t think for a second that what helped you will also help others. Plus, if you don’t want drugs and think talk therapy is dumb then I guess you’re out of luck! Really? No, of course not.
Be open, be smart, and ultimately do what works for you.
Friedman, Richard. (2002). Like Drugs, Talk Therapy Can Change Brain Chemistry. Retrieved from: http://www.jsu.edu/criminaljustice/docs/mellen_drugs.pdf
Barth, F.D. (2010). Does Talk Therapy Really Work? Retrieved from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-couch/201011/does-talk-therapy-really-work